Hello great people and welcome to the concluding part of the exposition on why we close our eyes in prayer. In case you didn’t read the first part of the subject, you may want to read up on it in order to flow along.
Yesterday, we touched on a couple of explanations advanced for the practice. Let’s take it up from there…
Some believe closing one’s eyes is conducive to prayer as a spiritual communion of the soul with God. Again, this is mere speculation although borne out of a sincere/well-meaning sentiment. The question for those who hold this view is: what connection does closing the eyes have with the ‘soul’, which is in communion with God in prayer? Or better still, what effect does the closing of one’s eyes have on the soul while in communion with God? If it can be scripturally proved that closing the eyes makes ‘the soul’ more vibrant in prayer, we all should never open our eyes while praying henceforth.
What’s more, according to some others, they close their eyes to show respect and honour God. While this isn’t a bad sentiment, its application is relative. Honouring God is an action that stems from one’s heart and not subjective to the handling of the sense organs. By the way, the mark or sign of respect/honour varies from persons to persons and from a culture to another. It’s okay to close your eyes if you feel it makes you more respectful. It’s okay to close your eyes if, in the course of praying, you feel the urge to do so. However, it’s manipulative to compel others to do so on the basis of that sentiment.
From Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matt 6, we understand that prayer is not for showmanship. Rather, it’s a private business between the supplicant and God. Unless in a public gathering, it’s conducted discretely. Except for 1Tim2:8 where Paul instructs that “men pray everywhere lifting up holy hands”, there is no other instruction given concerning the posture/mood to assume in prayer, let alone an instruction to close one’s eyes. Whatever state one assumes while praying will be reflective of the intensity of the prayer and one’s expression/extent of emotion and desire. Many times, at some point in the place of prayer, the experience gets intense that the shutting of the eyelids happens unconsciously.
THE ONLY RATIONAL EXPLANATION
So far, the only rational explanation folks have given for closing the eyes while praying is that it helps to block physical distractions and keep one’s mind focused on the prayer.
Experts tell us that the eyes and the ears are two sense organs prone to distractions. For instance, what the eyes feed on has the capacity to alter one’s thought process or state of mind. This is because the brain registers whatever the eyes see. Furthermore, they tell us that closing one’s eyes shut down some stimulus, thereby allowing us to focus.
Thank God for science and its logical explanation of phenomena. However, not all explanations advanced by science are across-the-board.
Although this explanation is logical, its application is not always generally attainable. For instance, psychologists tend to agree on the idea that not everyone is able to keep their minds focused and disallow distractions when they close their eyes. I happen to be one of those people. For some, closing their eyes while praying actually make them think about everything mundane. Truth is our minds/ neural systems don’t get to operate the same way in particular situations and settings.
BEYOND THE REASONS
There is no doubt that many times, in the place of prayer, God communicates things to us via mental images/pictures. However, having those images is not necessarily dependent on closing the eyes. The things God communicate are spiritual things. They are beyond the scope of the physical eyes, whether opened or closed. While it’s true that we need to concentrate and turn our mind inwards while praying, many times, keeping one’s mind focused on prayer takes more than closing the eyes.
🚘 Take the scenario of a man driving on the highway as a case in point. In order not to end up having an accident (ghastly or fatal), he needs to focus and avoid distractions. However, in focusing, he doesn’t get to close his eyes. Instead, what he requires is a great deal of mental alertness and presence of mind. 🚘
THE AUDIO🔉 VERSUS VISUAL👀 BATTLE
Most times, we find solutions to 🔉 distractions by going to some quite place to pray; shutting ourselves up in our closets; gathering in a soundproofed building; silencing every sound-producing device that… However, no matter how well we address the matter of audio distraction, we always have the visual 👀 aspect to contend with.
No matter how isolated/secluded our location is, there is always something the eyes want to see. Are you on the mountain? That’s a vantage position that offers you a perfect view of the beauty of nature. What about a well-equipped church facility? The eye can’t do without feasting on the state-of-the-art sound/musical equipment, the tasteful interior décor, the movement of others…and the list is endless. Although you can block out the sounds, unless you put conscious effort into it, you can’t shut your eyes for a prolonged period of time.
BY AND LARGE…
So far, the idea is not to downplay or discourage the act of praying with eyes closed. Rather, it is to situate the practice within the scriptures to see if it’s ordained for believers. Although there is no biblical precedence for it, it doesn’t necessarily make the tradition unsuitable. Whatever mood we assume in prayer should be to the ends that our minds don’t wander thereby praying thoughtlessly.
If praying with your eyes closed helps you to focus and pray more effectively, be sure to keep it closed. However, whether your eyes are closed or opened while praying, ensure that your mind is opened to God. Also, take care to pray with the right mind-set and in line with God’s will. Meanwhile, while in a gathering of believers, you will be unruly or disorderly to keep your eyes opened when you are required to close it and vice-versa. Wisdom is profitable to direct.